ISO Zimbabwe

Defend worker MP

The expected attacks against Munyaradzi Gwisai, the socialist MP for Highfield, Harare, have begun with a vengeance.

Comrade Gwisai, a member of the International Socialist Organisation, sister of the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, was elected to the Zimbabwe parliament last June as a representative of the Movement for Democratic Change. He has just returned from a speaking tour in Britain, where he addressed SWP and Socialist Alliance meetings.

In an interview with the Weekly Worker just after his victory, comrade Gwisai made clear his view that the MDC, set up by the Zimbabwe trade union movement, had since become dominated by bourgeois forces, and he fully expected that both the ISO and himself would become a target of the right wing, who were looking to break the party completely from its working class roots (July 6).

Ironically, it was the Weekly Worker interview which fanned the flames of the already smouldering witch hunt - directed not only against comrade Gwisai, but also against other ISO comrades. MDC Mpopoma district secretary Lazarus Moyo, a leading ISO member in Bulawayo, had been suspended from the party for being a "speaker at an ISO meeting" on August 5.

At this meeting, according to Socialist Worker (Zimbabwe version), comrade Gwisai "called upon workers, peasants and war veterans to seize commercial farms on their own, but ignore Mugabe's cynical resettlement process" (November). The pro-government Sunday News seized on this radical departure from official MDC policy, which is for the setting up of a commission of 'experts' to examine the land question. Hoping to cause difficulties for the opposition, it ran a front page story under the headline, "MDC MP embraces Mugabe land stance" (August 6).

A furious Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, denounced comrade Gwisai as "wayward" and threatened to force an immediate by-election in Highfield. It was at this point that the Harare press picked up on the Weekly Worker interview, running highly selective excerpts and focusing on comrade Gwisai's clear explanation of the class and other divisions in the MDC, which must, sooner or later, force a split between its bourgeois and working class elements.

National MDC chair Milton Gwetu fumed: "The ISO cannot continue to be operational within the MDC ... They are fighting a secret war and we don't want such people in our party. These people want to destroy the MDC." In fact it is the MDC's leadership that is becoming rapidly out of touch with its mass working class support.

Tsvangirai himself remains popular through his reputation as a past leader of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, but his party has been usurped by an alliance of sections of the black middle class and anti-Mugabe white farmers. International capital too is hoping that the MDC can be shaped into a reliable alternative governing party to replace the increasingly corrupt and inept Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front), which has headed the country since its liberation from the racist regime of Ian Smith two decades ago.

In response to the attacks comrade Gwisai called a mass meeting in Highfield at the Machipisa shopping centre, open to all his constituents, on August 31. He stated that, as a revolutionary, he, along with the ISO, stood for the "principle of recall" and would "resign from parliament with immediate effect if the meeting gave him a vote of no confidence" (Zimbabwe Socialist Worker November). The 4,000-strong gathering - almost entirely working class - unanimously supported him and explicitly endorsed the ISO position of working within the MDC.

Tsvangirai was forced to retreat, saying that perhaps he had "overreacted". The privately owned Daily News, having previously published vitriolic attacks advising Gwisai to cross over to Zanu-PF (he was clearly a "communist", after all), now changed tack somewhat: "The Movement for Democratic Change member of parliament for Highfield is one of the most colourful politicians to emerge on the Zimbabwe political landscape for a long time" (September 4).

It went on: "What many may find intriguing is Gwisai's apparent relationship with international socialism, as leader of the Socialist International [sic] in this country. This raised even more eyebrows when his interview appeared in the British Communist Party's Workers' Weekly [sic] ..."

Now it seems there is room for all sorts in the MDC - even such an 'eccentric' as comrade Gwisai. The editorial concluded: "An openness of debate of the issues is vital if [the MDC] are not to be tarred with the same brush as the other big party in parliament, whose intolerance of dissent has plunged that party (and the country) into its present state of political and economic uncertainty."

It remains to be seen how long the Daily News, and the MDC itself, will continue to permit "openness" and claim to oppose "intolerance" in the face of comrade Gwisai's insistence on proclaiming his revolutionary socialism and support for the mass action of the working class and peasantry.

Workers must rally to the defence of comrade Gwisai and the ISO and insist that the MDC leadership put working class interests first, not those of the bourgeoisie and international capital.

Jim Blackstock